TV One Seven Sharp has raised questions about whether there has been a conflict of interest for Peter Dunne. This is with respect to his son James Dunne’s legal representation of advocates for the recreational synthetic drug industry.
To me it seems possible that father and son have a totally different attitude to legal highs. As when I stated after Not a PS Staffer raised this on Open Mike last night, I require more information in order to decide whether there has been a conflict of interest.
However, legal highs are a hot topic right now, and I have been hearing people locally tell of their concerns about some new legal high shops that have opened in west Auckland.
This morning on Stuff, Charles Anderson writes of concerns about the dangers of some legal highs.
Synthetic cannabis puts more New Zealanders in hospital per use than any other drug and experts say it is a ”timebomb” that will strain the public health system for years to come.
Results from this year’s Global Drug Survey, conducted in partnership with Fairfax Media, found almost 4 per cent of synthetic cannabis users sought emergency medical treatment. More than a quarter of those were admitted to hospital.
The survey of 5731 New Zealand respondents found more than 10 per cent had used synthetic cannabis in the past 12 months – second only to Britain, on just under 11 per cent.
Further down the article, they report statements from a legal high company, seemingly providing an alternative view:
However, Grant Hall, of legal high industry lobby Star Trust, said an independent study it commissioned showed all forms of cannabis were low-risk.
”The general public is being continuously fed a diet of media-driven propaganda against consumers of low-risk psychoactives,” he said.
”This discrimination needs to stop.”
Star Trust is a company that James Dunne represents.
Star Trust is the industry representative body for a number of businesses which currently hold various licenses under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2013.
Star Trust, according to their website, is all for the Psychoactive Substances Act 2013.
Peter Dunne, as Associate Minister of Health, introduced this Bill to parliament. In a press release of February 2013, he outlined the Bill and the reasons for it:
“The Bill will be a complete game-changer in terms of party pills and other legal highs,” Mr Dunne said.
“It is about moving from constantly playing catch-up with this industry on each new product they produce, to reversing the onus of proof – now they will have to prove every product is safe before it goes on sale.
“This legislation will clean up what has been a highly irresponsible legal highs industry to date.
“Producers of products such as synthetic cannabis and party pills will no longer be able to play with the health of young New Zealanders,” he said.
Seven Sharp put their case. They claim that at the least there is an appearance of conflict of interest. Neither James nor Peter would appear on camera to answer questions, but both claim they work independently from the other, and there was no collaboration or sharing of information. The main accusations, or implied associations are to do with James representing the legal high industry providers, and claiming, as stated on Chenpalmer website, to have
valuable inside knowledge of how Parliament works in New Zealand
In order for there to have been a conflict of interest, it seems to me that it needs to be shown that, far from cleaning up the legal high industry, the 2013 Act has enabled an industry to operate legally, while peddling highly addictive and dangerous recreational drugs. Certainly that’s the way the main way the media is characterising the legal high business currently. It also needs to be shown that Peter Dunne colluded with his son in misleadingly claiming that legalising synthetic drugs would clean up the industry.
I have found no such evidence. However, it is a topical issue that requires further investigation.
A beat up, or media reporting based on genuine concerns about the harmfulness of the legal high industry?
Stuff’s synthetic cannabis live chat. Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne will join us at midday but you can already leave your questions for him here.